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Little Free Library Is Installed In Town

Submitted by Karen Bernhardt Toolan

Christ Episcopal Church, Forest City is expanding, and it is offering some exciting new and different avenues that are waiting to be explored by everyone!

Standing new and proud outside the red door at the Dundaff Street entrance is a miniature replica of Christ Church (circa 1891) itself. And inside the glass door of this tiny church structure is a Little Free Library. Brimming with books to entice readers of all ages are varied and many-paged timeless treasures. Following its mission to always welcome and serve all in Christ's name, Christ Church is opening its newest door to the community at large with an enticing new purpose: To offer endless opportunities to discover exciting adventures, provide scenes and stories of Nature, share hopes and dreams, romance, mysteries, recipes, comedy, fun, and so much more … such things that are always found among the pages of chosen books.

As discarded books began to accumulate on a table in the church hall – left there for others to read and pass along – ideas were discussed as to how to better organize and share the retired books. Church Vestry members familiar with the Little Free Libraries that have popped up throughout the world thought that creating a public 'book box' of its own was just the solution to help collect, salvage and distribute previously unwanted books. During the past year, a congregant (who requests anonymity) generously used his God-given talents, skills, and artistry to build the first-ever Little Free Library in Forest City. And designing the conception after his beloved parish proved the ideal architectural blue print.

Inspired by the first official Little Free Library established in Wisconsin in 2010 (as a 502(c)(3) non-profit organization), the firm's initial vision was to have a Little Free Library in every community and a book available for every reader. The founding organization was meant to serve as a catalyst to help bring communities together and inspire readers of all ages to discover the dreams, excitement and adventures contained within the pages of every book. The intent was to share and exchange good books and to help expand book access for everyone through a global network of volunteer-led Little Libraries. Today, more than 150k such public book exchanges throughout 115 countries are registered with the organization and branded as Little Free Libraries. The Christ Church Little Free Library is duly registered as Charter #147864 and is dedicated in the loving memory of Joanie Marcel of Vandling, a long-time church congregant, altar lady and lifetime lover of books.

Like all Little Free Libraries, this newest one is also open 24/7, there is no library card needed, no fines or fees are ever charged, and it operates entirely on the honor system. Mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles, grandparents and children are all welcome to stop by and browse the twin shelves, take a book (or two), and hopefully return a book … take a book, leave a book is the founding firm's simple request. It does not have to be the same book that is returned, as this system is developed to encourage book exchanges and to help keep the Little Library full of endless choices and selections for the entire community to regularly share and enjoy.

The public is invited to help Christ Church ensure its Little Free Library continues to thrive for years to come. Donations of additional books are welcomed and encouraged… but please, only books, as magazines, videos, CDs, toys, etc. are not wanted for the Little Free Library. Any questions or to donate books, please call 570-679-2203, or contact a church member.

Come, choose a book to read, and enjoy the wonder-filled magic of words found among the pages.

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Is Starrucca Broken?

By Ted Brewster

It wasn't clear who called for the special meeting of the Starrucca Borough Council on September 19th. Four members showed up: Darl Haynes; his brother, Donald Haynes, Jr.; Keith Payne; and Kirk Rhone. Gale Reddon having resigned, that left Kristen Potter and Jack Downton, who did not attend, and would have had little if any influence in any case. The quadrumvirate votes consistently as a bloc.

They addressed a brief agenda that was amended at the outset to recognize the resignation of Assistant Secretary Ray Woods. They then proceeded to elect Darl Haynes President, Kirk Rhone Vice President, and Keith Payne as the new Assistant Secretary.

There was some confusion about the next item, to rescind a motion from the last meeting on September 6 to contract with the state's Center For Local Government Services for its Strategic Management Planning Program ("STMP"). Mr. Woods interjected that they really meant to rescind the motion to subscribe to the federal government's System for Award Management (SAM) required to receive the next distribution of CARES Act funds under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) act of 2021. They then amended the agenda to rescind the SAM subscription, which may not have been what they wanted. But then, who's counting?

Next up, the four agreed to a contract with the Honesdale National Bank (HNB) to become the Borough's "treasurer," for a fee: $150 to enroll; $800 per year; $154 to attend meetings in Starrucca; expenses. This was first proposed by Darl Haynes at the meeting on the 6th, resulting in an argument that ultimately led to Ms. Reddon's resignation. Asked why this was necessary, Mr. Haynes said it was to provide "some stability," given that the Borough had already had 2 treasurers this year. He read out most of the contract, and the four unanimously adopted it. Along the way, they agreed to move the Borough's bank accounts from Wayne Bank to HNB.

And finally, the four decided to hire an Assistant Solicitor, Christine Rechner, of Honesdale. The Borough's primary solicitor, Ronald Bugaj, said that he was recusing himself from any real estate transactions involving the Borough, for "personal reasons" (it seems that he also represents one or more of the Council members). Since the Borough is immersed in some real estate business already, it would need someone to represent it.

All of this sounds fairly straightforward. It is not. This Council has a long and sordid history. Just for an instance, the special meeting was held in the Baptist church building. Starrucca's Council has called at least 4 buildings its home: the decrepit "Town Hall" on Shadigee Creek Road; a community center that it seems was sold to a private party; a private facility rented to the Borough for a dollar a month, sometimes referred to as the "Municipal Building," and where the last meeting was held; and now the Baptist church, which is in the process of selling itself to the Borough for some $75,000. All almost in sight of one another in a village of maybe a dozen acres. It begs the question why Starrucca is a borough to begin with, although it was established as such as far back as 1853.

Meetings of the Starrucca Borough Council have become so contentious that they have recently been attended by a pair of constables, one of them hired privately, presumably to protect one or other of the Council members against some perceived threat.

With the Borough Council having become, in effect, the private fief of these four individuals, one is tempted to ask what further purpose it serves for the rest of the community. It is said that elections generally split roughly 50-50 between the supporters of this bloc, and their opponents. How can tiny, isolated Starrucca recover from such a distorted manifestation of polarization?

The next public meeting of the Starrucca Borough Council is scheduled for Monday, October 3, 2022 beginning at 7:00pm, maybe in the Baptist church, maybe not.

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Harford Refinances, Again

By Ted Brewster

Some six years ago Harford Township embarked on a project to refurbish and upgrade its sewer system, in particular, the sewage treatment plant on Burns Road. The Township borrowed some money to get started, and some preliminary plans were drawn up. Then the whole thing sort of fell apart: the engineer was indicted and disappeared; a new engineering firm was engaged; the pandemic hit; government agencies involved lost staff and shut down, etc., etc.

Along the way, Harford rolled the remainder of the debt from the original construction of the system into what became a new line of credit with what is now Peoples Security Bank & Trust that was intended to help finance the new project. The new engineers eventually drew up a plan for a $2 million project and managed to secure financing at 1% through PENNVEST, a state entity that underwrites such things. Now it seems that PENNVEST won't assume most of the old debt into its financing package, so Harford has to find a way to pay off about $678,000 of that old debt itself.

At their meeting on September 20th, the Township Supervisors mulled over the available options. With substantial resources available through the Act 13 "impact fee" funds from natural gas operations, the Supervisors are considering using some of that to pay down some of the principal on the outstanding debt, along with some funds from the CARES Act American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds.

In fact, the Treasurer's Report showed balances totaling nearly $2 million in various accounts. The second distribution of ARP funds came to just over $70,000. The impact fee account alone had a balance of just over $1 million at the time of the meeting. The Supervisors were quick to note that some of that money is already committed, for a truck, a mower, some paving, etc. Nothing is decided yet, but they are confident that the principal on the debt could be drawn down far enough to save substantially on interest costs, even if interest rates go higher.

FIRE COMPANY INCENTIVE

The Supervisors also adopted an ordinance implementing a tax incentive for the Harford Volunteer Fire Company under Act 172 of 2016. Active members of the fire company may be able to qualify for 20% off their township property taxes, and $100 off their earned income tax. There are requirements, so check with the fire company or the township office for details.

BALLFIELD PARK ENHANCEMENT

The Supervisors heard from Dana Empet that the Harford Township Municipal Authority has received approval for a grant of $249,700 for improvements to the ballfield/park in Harford village, almost completely funding the project. Paperwork, permitting and other bureaucratic details are in progress. The Township's engineers are expected to receive about $20,000 from the "pre-work" funds of about $63,000 allocated earlier by the Supervisors. The pavilion for the park that Alex Empet has found as part of his Eagle Scout project should arrive shortly as a kit; the Township funded 25% of that as well. His project must be completed before his 18th birthday.

RUMORS

Stories are circulating that the triangle in the center of Harford village may be going up for sheriff's sale. Supervisor Dustin Walker broached the possibility of moving the 9-Partners monument to that location, closing out a lease arrangement with the Jeffers operation for its current (historical and nearly inaccessible) location.

A story is also being bruited about that the Susquehanna County Recreation Center (SCRC) may acquire some property near the Gibson exit on the interstate, perhaps adjacent to the new Outdoor Insiders facility. The SCRC recently backed out of a deal with the Mountain View School District, but hasn't officially announced the new location. If the move to Gibson is true, they would need a sewage outlet, and Outdoor Insiders has already arranged to ship its sewage to Harford.

BUDGET

The Supervisors have scheduled two special meetings in October around their regular meeting to develop a new budget for 2023. The budget sessions will be on October 11 and October 25 at 5pm. The regular October meeting will be on Tuesday, the 18th, beginning at 7pm. The Municipal Authority will also meet on October 4, 2022 beginning at 7:30pm. All these meetings will take place at the new Township building on Route 547.

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